Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Abba and Ryan are fun to watch, maybe in a comedy

Kiki Abba and Brandon Ryan in Belleville (Shane Regan)
MAP Theatre
Through April 16, 2016

A loving couple, transplanted to Paris for the husband’s great job working with Doctors Without Borders, can have issues even after a long relationship spanning years. Maybe it’s because they’re in a foreign country, but slightly bigger cracks are developing between Abby (Kiki Abba) and Zack (Brandon Ryan) than they are used to.

The oh-so-very-American and “regular” couple at the heart of the beguiling Belleville, now staging by MAP Theatre, feels very accessible. The couple are cute and loving; their hassles seem on the edges of their relationship and not too threatening; maybe a good conversation will fix stuff.

But the landlord/friend shows up (an amiable Tamron Harrison) and when Abby is out of the room, we find out a lot is not what it seems. The audience now has to figure out what it means. (The landlord’s wife is played by Mia Tesfay.)

Amy Herzog’s 90 minute play seeks to make us uneasy about people we think we know very well. Or at least this couple seems to think they know each other well. They find out just how deep the waters run as their little nest is threatened by the deceptions they keep from each other.

For the most part, Herzog’s play unfolds in a way that doesn’t feel the slightest bit creepy until it does –
which is a very nice bit of storytelling. Abba and Ryan interact in a very unassuming and even fun way, and feel like many couples we know. And doesn’t everyone have a few issues about something?

The end success of the play hinges on whether the underlying deceptions are strong enough, or the reasons for why things happen the way they do are understandable enough. Ultimately, I don’t think they are, and so while the production goes down easy, the end result is a bit of a letdown. Herzog does not reveal enough of the character development to help us know what could lead to the lies and how one lie could lead to another until they find themselves in Paris, of all places. The economics of their circumstances don’t match up with their lives.

In fact, Abba and Ryan are both funny people with great comic timing. I’d love to see a play where they can each exploit their abilities even in a relationship play, where we can enjoy and laugh at and with them. Certainly, they are fun enough to watch so that most of this play is very enjoyable. But the script isn’t quite enough. Still, if you like creepy, you’ll have fun.

For more information, go to MAP Theatre tickets are all name-your-own-price and they are committed to having audiences of whatever means come to their shows.

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